UN to probe climate e-mail leak

Last Updated: Saturday, December 5, 2009 - 10:34

London: The United Nations will conduct its own investigation into e-mails leaked from a leading British climate science center in addition to the probe by the University of East Anglia, a senior UN climate official said in comments broadcast Friday.

E-mails stolen from the climate unit at the University of East Anglia appeared to show some of world`s leading scientists discussing ways to shield data from public scrutiny and suppress others` work. Those who deny the influence of man-made climate change have seized on the correspondence to argue that scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence about global warming.

In an interview with the BBC, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, said the issue raised by the e-mails was serious and said "we will look into it in detail".

"We will certainly go into the whole lot and then we will take a position on it," he said. "We certainly don`t want to brush anything under the carpet."

The University of East Anglia has defended the integrity of the science published by the climate unit and its researchers, but on Thursday said it would investigate whether some of the data had been fudged. Phil Jones, the director of the unit, stepped down earlier in the week pending the result of the investigation.

East Anglia said its review will examine the e-mails and other information "to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice."

The theft of the e-mails and their publication online — only weeks before the UN summit on global warming — has been politically explosive, even if researchers say their content has no bearing on the principles of climate change itself.

Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for global change research at the US Geological Survey, said that, even if the data and studies mentioned in the e-mail exchanges were ignored, the evidence "is still hugely overwhelming in terms of the rates of changes that can only be attributed to the warming of the atmosphere. That includes melting Arctic sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets, decline of spring snow season, coral reef bleaching and earlier onset of spring in plants and animals," she said, referring to changing patterns of blooming, hibernation, and migration.

"They may be talking three or four datasets in the e-mail scandal, we`re looking at 28,000 data sets of physical and biological systems from around the world," she said.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia`s lead climate change negotiator, Mohammad Al-Sabban, reportedly said the e-mails would have a "huge impact" on the Copenhagen talks on a new global emissions reduction pact scheduled to begin Monday.

"It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change," Al-Sabban was quoted as saying by the BBC Friday.

Britain`s Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, acknowledged Friday that the revelations may have an impact on the talks in Denmark. But he dismissed as "flat Earth-ers" critics who claim the e-mails are proof the case for man-made climate change is exaggerated.

"We need maximum transparency including about all the data but it`s also very, very important to say one chain of e-mails, potentially misrepresented, does not undo the global science," Miliband said. "I think we want to send a very clear message to people about that."

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have grilled government scientists on the leaked e-mails in a hearing Wednesday in Washington, but the scientists countered that the e-mails don`t change the fact that the Earth is warming.

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First Published: Saturday, December 5, 2009 - 10:34

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